If we wish to undertake successfully further research into the meaning
and function of suffixes, we should pay due attention to the progressive
tendency in language. Allow me to give two brief examples from English.
According to Fowler, the negative prefix un- [as in un-acceptable] is
good English stock, while its variants in- [as in in-credible],
il- as in [il-logical], im- [im-mature], ir-
[ir-replacible] are combined with roots of Latin origin. In his Basic English
project C. K. Ogden has attempted to use un- as the only negative
prefix in place of all others. Fowler recommends the restriction of in-
to Latin prototypes and prefers un- in other cases. We could imagine
that un- will ultimately remain the only negative prefix, and if this
speculation is borne out, existing anomalies would disappear, as
Two things follow from these short examples, (1) the simple English suffix tends to displace its Latin prototype, and (2) the native suffix follows the simpler pattern of agglutination while its Latin prototype follows flexion.
Jespersen made some interesting observations which are wholly relevant to our
discussion. In describing the irregularities of speech, he says
. . . in early languages we find a greater number of irregularities, exceptions, anomalies, than in modern ones. It is true that we not infrequently see new irregularities spring up where the formations were formerly regular; but these instances are very far from counterbalancing the opposite class, in which words once irregularly inflected become regular, or are given up in favour of regularly inflecting words . . .
In the same chapter in Language, its Nature, Development and Origin (Unwin, 1922) he speaks about the progress of language and gives his conclusion which he regards as the outcome of a life-long study:
The evolution of language shows a progressive tendency from inseparable irregular conglomerations to freely and regularly combinable short elements.
I shall return to Jespersen's dictum in a moment after summarizing briefly the principles of both schools and comparing them with the progressive tendency in language.
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